Escalating Conflict in Middle East Spurs Growth in Violent Online Hate Speech

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Warning: This analysis contains highly offensive and potentially triggering language. Where possible, slur words are marked with asterisks, but in cases where that may make the content unclear, offensive language is cited.

Since the Israel-Hamas war started in October, the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE) has been documenting increasing amounts of violent hate speech directed at Jews and Muslims on fringe social media platforms, including on the weekend of the October 7 Hamas attacks and in the months following

Whenever there’s conflict, particularly horrific acts of violence, impacted communities across the globe experience a rise in hate speech, hate incidents, and the possibility of hate-driven terrorism. Following Iran’s launch of drone attacks against Israel on April 13 in response to a strike against an Iranian consulate in Damascus, Syria, far-right extremists have taken to online spaces to target Jews and Muslims alike. Both of these communities are frequent targets for acts of violence and hate propaganda globally, and the rise in incidents unfortunately isn’t surprising, but the scale of growth over the weekend has been alarming. 

According to data collected by GPAHE from the loosely and unmoderated platforms 4chan, Gab, Truth Social, and in forums of the Fediverse, short for “federated universe,” which is a “collection of community owned, ad-free, decentralized, and privacy-centric social networks,” calls for violence and the use of extreme slurs against both Jews and Muslims have once again skyrocketed. 

On 4chan, instances of extreme antisemitism, such as the use of slurs and calling for violence against Jews, were measured at 196 posts on April 11 and 173 on April 12. These numbers grew over the weekend, skyrocketing to 379 on April 13, representing a nearly 100 percent increase before dropping slightly to 307 on April 14. Commenters said that Jews, referred to using the extreme slur “k****,” are the “dominant political bloc,” and hoping that all Jews are killed. Other bigoted commenters hoped for Israel and Iran to “nuke each other off the map,” in order for their taxes not to “get stolen by Jews,” seemingly an attempt to claim Jews control the United States government and its taxation policies. This comment reflects an antisemitic conspiracy popular amongst the far right, known as the New World Order (NWO), which purports that Jews are part of a massive global conspiracy to take over democracies and create a global totalitarian government. While popular on fringe platforms such as 4chan, it has unfortunately seeped into mainstream media through far-right agitators like Alex Jones.

Anti-Muslim speech, using similar paremeters to violent antisemitism, on 4chan rose similarly, albeit at lower amounts. There were 31 instances of violent anti-Muslim posts on April 11, followed by 43 on April 12, 59 on April 13, and 54 on April 14. Further, there was a 90 percent increase in violent hateful posts from April 11 to 13. Comments included hatred against Islam, such as falsely claiming that Muslims believe they can “kill or rape whoever [they] want” and still get into heaven. Others said that “leaving the muslims free to cause mayhem” will lead to governments needing to “nuke it all” and that they will need to “teach the Muslims a lesson” by “nuk[ing] Iran.” 

Numerous comments targeted both groups, including those that called to kill “fa*****, russians, ch**ks, n******, k**** and Muslims,” ending their violent comments with “Heil Hitler!” Others, reminiscent of a recently-popular far right talking point known as “remigration,” meant to ethnically cleanse Western countries of immigrants, called for governments to “deport all Jews…and Muslims to Jerusalem and nuke that shithole.” 

On Gab, violent speech against Jews was measured at 80 on April 11 and 69 on April 12, before rising nearly 50 percent to 101 on April 13. Instances decreased to 82 on April 14. Posts were made calling to “Nuke Israel now,” and “nuke ‘em til they glow,” calling Judaism “a criminal communist enterprise,” claiming that Rabbis are “pedos,” short for pedophiles, and pushing conspiracies that Jews are trying to facilitate a “depopulation of the Goyim.” The term “Goyim,” meaning “non-Jews,” is used commonly by antisemites, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists to signal their hatred towards Jews.

On April 11, eight extreme anti-Muslim posts and comments were counted on April 11 and seven on April 12 before rising to 25 on April 13, representing a more than 200 percent increase. Instances dropped back down to 14 on April 14, although still high compared to before the attempted drone strikes. Comments included saying that “Islam in any form should be considered a threat” and “as long as there are Muslims in Gaza; there can never be peace.” Others were generalizing all Arabs as inherently violent, claiming that “Arabs have long dreamed of slaughtering and enslaving the Jews,” coupling their posts with hashtags such as “#WokeMindVirus,” “#Nazis,” and “#Trump2024.”

On selected instances in the Fediverse, the spike in violent speech rose from 62 on April 11 to 85 on April 12, representing a 37 percent increase. In the following days, it fell back down to 43 on April 13 and 60 on April 14. Self-proclaimed Nazis on the Fediverse discussed bringing up the Jewish Question (JQ) to their friends, the “JQ” being a term used by antisemites and white nationalists to imply that Jewish existence is a “question” that needs addressing, namely by genocide. Others said the war would be the “end game for k*****,” that “every last k*** needs to be exterminated,” while some openly claimed their support for Hamas, saying “I have every reason to believe that Hitler would have also supported them.” 

The Fediverse saw a 72 percent rise in extreme anti-Muslim speech, going from eleven posts on April 11 to 19 on April 12. While posts dropped to five on April 13, it once again rose 300 percent to 20 on April 14. Users made “jokes” about telling Muslims to kill Jews, and made racist claims that “Muslims are slaughtering Jews and Christians all over the world.”

On Donald Trump’s social media network, Truth Social, extreme violent speech against Jews rose from four posts on April 11 to 15 on April 12, before rising further to 19 on April 13, a whopping 375 percent increase, albeit from small numbers. Higher levels of online hate continued, with 16 extreme antisemitic posts and comments posted on April 14. Users demonstrated their anxiety around escalating conflict in hateful ways, such as claiming that “we will die so the Jewish state of Israel can conquer all who they want.” 

Extreme anti-Muslim speech on Truth Social rose 700 percent, again from a small baseline, from one on April 11 to eight on April 12 and 13. Recorded instances dropped back down to three on April 13. One widely-shared post said that “the enemy is already here,” calling Muslims “filthy,” and ranting about “Muslim globalist traitors who want us dead.”

719 480 Global Project Against Hate and Extremism
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